DON'T underestimate the chances of David Beckham coming to the A-League. Despite the insistence of Beckham's representatives on Friday night that their client had ''no plans to play in Australia'', talks on a move are a whole lot more advanced than any of us have given credit for.
Now for the really good news. Should Beckham actually come to Australia, football in this country will reach a level it has never known. The impact on the game is beyond measurement and, for the moment, beyond comprehension.
A sport that has long laboured in the shadows of AFL and rugby league would threaten to break open that duopoly, at least for the duration of his stay. Imagine that.
The legacy of Beckham's arrival - combined with Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono already being here - would surely be more than enough to ignite an entire nation's interest. Whichever club he ended up in would become an overnight global sensation, just as the Los Angeles Galaxy became when Beckham signed for the club in 2007.
If all goes to plan, Beckham will arrive early next month, as soon as all his commitments with the Major League Soccer are completed. His six-year stint in the US has been a major success but the word from those in the know is that he's looking for somewhere new.
As soon as the 37-year-old's interest in Australia became known, player agent Lou Sticca tried to tip-toe quietly to Football Federation Australia to gauge their interest. Besides, there was only one man who could pay for Beckham, especially if he wanted to come to harbour city: FFA chairman Frank Lowy.
As Del Piero is at Sydney FC, there's little chance of Beckham going there. The Western Sydney Wanderers, however, are right in the running. As the FFA owns the Wanderers, Lowy would have to pay for Beckham himself. There could be no better donation he could make to the game.
Brisbane are second favourites. The Bakrie Group can afford the deal and they'd eagerly hawk his image across Asia. Perth say they want him but would have to move their matches for the rest of the year. Neither Melbourne club would likely have enough money; a similar fate for Central Coast, Wellington and Adelaide. Nathan Tinkler's declining fortune rules Newcastle out.
The next 24 hours are critical. How the news is received will play a big part in whether talks will progress.
So, how did this all happen? Having left his legacy in England, Europe and North America, he's ready to add another special - and possibly final - chapter to his extraordinary career. Crucially, the difference between Australia and other markets is that Beckham's arrival could alter not just the A-League but the whole sport immediately. As it was for Del Piero, seeing the game grow is a compelling factor.
Beckham's brand is managed by Simon Fuller, a man intimately versed in the art of promotion.
It's no secret how much progress Beckham and his wife Victoria have made in the superstar-hungry markets of Japan, China, Indonesia, India and Thailand. However, whether the ex-Manchester United star would want to take his young, English-speaking family to such countries remains unknown. Instead, he could easily serve those markets from here.
His management likes Australia because it ticks the most boxes. Family wise, it's the easiest of the lot. He's still good enough not only to play at the A-League level but to be among the top few players. There's no risk of embarrassment.
It goes without saying that Beckham's team have noted how Del Piero has been welcomed. They've been impressed at how he's been feted and the huge impact he's had on crowds and media interest. Not to rain on Del Piero's parade, but Beckham's appeal - especially to non-football fans - would be considerably bigger.